7/28/11 Etheridge visits center to see stimulus funds at work

Etheridge visits center to see stimulus funds at work

Architect Thomas Hughes, left, shows Bob Etheridge around the future site of the Career and Technical Education Center on Wednesday in Burlington. Etheridge is the director of the North Carolina Office of Economic Recovery and a former U.S. congressman.

Scott Muthersbaugh / Times-News

Architect Thomas Hughes, left, shows Bob Etheridge around the future site of the Career and Technical Education Center on Wednesday in Burlington. Etheridge is the director of the North Carolina Office of Economic Recovery and a former U.S. congressman.

KEEPING WATCH
By Molly McGowan The Times-News 7/28/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 The county’s new Career and Technical Education Center, slated to open in January, got a checkup from the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery and Investment on Wednesday afternoon.

 Bob Etheridge, director of the office, visited the center’s construction site to see exactly how state federal stimulus funds are being spent.

 The center, financed with qualified school construction bonds, will feature technical education courses available to the Alamance-Burlington School System’s high school students.

 Dr. George Griffin, director of school programs and the center’s principal, said certain courses have been consolidated and many new ones created for the Center. Griffin said the electrical trade, digital media, network administration, TV video production and culinary arts courses are some that are entirely new to the system, while existing automotive and certified nursing assistant programs have been consolidated.

 As Tom Hughes, the Center’s principal architect with SFLA Architects, led Etheridge, a Democratic member of Congress until 2010, around the center on North Church Street in Burlington, he explained the construction didn’t happen until after the courses were established.

 “We built a curriculum first,” said Hughes, noting the collaboration between the architects and the school system.

 “Then we designed the building around that.”

 Hughes guided Etheridge through individual classrooms, and Hughes explained that the second floors will be mainly focused on teaching the sciences of technology, while the first floor has the “hands on” labs where students can practice what they learn.

 “The technology will manifest itself downstairs,” Hughes said.

 Hughes showed Etheridge the center’s entryway, and said it was designed to be very open in order to make the students feel welcome and to facilitate easy transit, since every student will have a different schedule.

 Alisa McLean, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said, “Every 90 minutes we will have transportation available,” in case students need to get back to their high schools for another class. Or, McLean said, they’ll have the option to take some of their high school’s courses online on the center’s computers. “It really will be an open door to the community,” said Etheridge.

 ABSS Superintendent Lillie Cox agreed, especially since there’s a possibility of opening the center up at night specifically for Alamance Community College students.

 “I’m excited about the opportunities for our children,” said Cox. “This is opening many doors for them … to a career of their choice.”

 Etheridge examined the building inside and out, and spoke with construction workers about the project being part of the federal economic recovery package.

 He said before the center officially opens its doors in January, it’s providing more than 70 jobs for local architects and workers in the construction field. Darryl E. Kellough, owner of Southside Constructions Inc., said he is pleased there would be a place where students could learn the same kinds of skills Kellough himself practices.

 “It gives high school kids the opportunities to learn trades that (are) very important to sustain our industry,” Kellough said.

 Etheridge agreed and said he, too, is satisfied with the new center, the jobs it’s already created, and the jobs for which it will train the county’s youth.

 “This very well could be one of the top places in the state,” he said.